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President Underwood says region needs local talent

By Frank Whitman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Business Journal, Feb. 1, 2010) – If all goes according to plan, two years from now, a School of Engineering will be a reality at the University of Guam. While the planning is in a preliminary stage, "it includes a pretty thorough discussion of faculty needs and specialties as well as a course of study that would receive favorable [Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology] review," Robert A. Underwood, president of UOG, told the Journal. A team of professors has been preparing a prospectus on the project.

The building will likely be located next to the parking lot on the side of Dean’s Circle and just north of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences building. "The [cost of constructing the] building would be approximately US$3 million and the equipment for the laboratories and furniture would cost over US$900,000," Underwood said. "A fully functioning School of Engineering should have at least 100 majors and be graduating 15 to 20 students a year." Seven or eight faculty members will be needed for the school.

While the impending military buildup has recently focused attention on construction-related trades and professions, it is not the impetus for the school, he said. The region needs to both develop local engineering talent and see it applied to the islands’ unique setting as "a contribution to local sustainability," Underwood said. "We need to cultivate our scientific and technical talent locally and apply it locally."

The current plan is not the first UOG initiative to address the needs of engineering students. In June 2008, the university announced that it had entered into an agreement with the University of Iowa to permit students in a pre-engineering program at UOG to transfer their credits and enter Iowa’s engineering program after two years of satisfactory study on Guam. (See "Engineering a change: universities agree on credits" in the June 23, 2008 issue of the Journal.)

UOG’s pre-engineering program began in the Fall 2008 semester. Currently, 19 students are enrolled in Engineering Graphics and seven in Engineering Dynamics, the two pre-engineering courses offered during the spring semester, according to Shahram Khosrowpanah, professor of engineering.

The first step in establishing the School of Engineering will likely be to add a year to the current two-year pre-engineering program, Underwood said. "In two years, we hope to have broken ground [on the new building], hired four or five core professors and begun third-year classes," he said, acknowledging that the timeline is "optimistic."

Underwood said that the new school will likely be funded from multiple sources. He said that the university hopes the government of Guam will be able to identify a revenue stream, that potential contributors will be approached and "we have put it on the front burner of our efforts to secure federal funding," he said. "Federal sources, especially the National Science Foundation, are very supportive of educational programs that focus on [science, technology, engineering and math] fields. This is especially the case if universities are working closely with community colleges and [kindergarten to grade 12] systems. We are doing exactly that."

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